Google is ready to unveil a feature that lets you check out a site on its search-results page before clicking through.
Search previews are scheduled to go live later today around the world, although it may take some time to roll out on a computer screen near you. Google tipped its hand a few weeks ago when it started testing the feature, but enough testing has taken place for it to formally go live, said Jeremy Silber, tech lead and manager of Web search features.
Google is calling this instant preview, Silber said. At some point today, Google searchers will start seeing little magnifying glasses next to search results. Clicking on that magnifying glass will produce a grainy preview with an enlarged snippet of the search terms highlighted, and if you like what you see, you can click through to the site.
Silber said that searchers won't really be able to see the entire page, which might assuage the fears of those who think Google has come up with a way to bypass their pages entirely. While testing the feature, Google did not record any meaningful drop-off in click-through rates to sites called out in search results, he said.
The idea is to give searchers a better sense of which site best meets their needs beyond the simple text snippet below search results that describes the linked page, Silber said. Google's not the first search company to implement previews--Ask.com had its binoculars--but doing it at Google's scale without slowing results is a difficult undertaking.